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Elisabeth Graffy

Elisabeth Graffy

Professor of Practice, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, College of Global Futures

School for the Future of Innovation in Society
Arizona State University
PO Box 875603
Tempe, AZ 85287-5603


  • Senior Sustainability Scientist, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation
  • Professor of Practice, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, College of Global Futures


Elisabeth Graffy is a professor of practice in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and in the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University. She co-directs the Energy and Society program within ASU-LightWorks and the Environmental Humanities Initiative in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. She founded and leads the Spirituality and Sustainability Initiative (SSI) and the Household Independent Power Project (HIPP). An expert on public policy development and institutional change, Elisa focuses particularly on issues undergoing disruptive change at the intersection of science, politics and culture. These include water, food and agriculture, energy and climate, and democratic decision-making. She teaches the longest-running graduate course on energy policy and politics at ASU, attracting students from across the university from public affairs, law, business, environmental social science, engineering, sustainability, design, and planning.

Her research explores and experiments with energy innovations that enhance social sustainability and resilience. Her analysis of the implications of the surge in adoption of rooftop solar systems in the Energy Law Journal, Does Disruptive Competition Mean a Death Spiral for Electric Utilities?, garnered national media attention including interviews with the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. The article has been cited in state regulatory reforms, including in New York, and in several legal casebooks. A follow-on study in the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Corporate Finance and Sustainability: The Case of the Electric Utility Industry, tests the strategy of deploying standard finance principles in new ways to achieve rapid, accelerated sustainability transitions against theoretical and real-life policy experimentation in New York and Minnesota. She continues to work on advancing societal resilience through local energy decisions, expanding governance of energy transitions to include climate engineering and carbon dioxide removal scenarios through public policy frameworks, and exploring pathways for deep innovation in response to disasters -- from drought-induced water scarcity in the west and Great Lakes regions to post-hurricane recovery of energy systems in Puerto Rico.

With two decades of governmental, private sector and NGO leadership experience prior to joining the faculty at ASU, Graffy has advised and led numerous organizational initiatives and authored dozens of academic, governmental and other publications. In government, she co-authored two major federal reports at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, Targeting Environmental Priorities for Agriculture: Reforming Program Strategies and Agriculture, Trade and Environmment: Achieving Complementary Policies. At the Department of the Interior, she served as a special adviser to the Secretary on a cross-governmental initiative on environmental decision-making and as National Policy Adviser to the National Water Quality Assessment Program where she led multi-disciplinary teams involving more than 100 scientists to create a series of 36 acclaimed regional Summary Reports on water quality, aimed at decision-makers. This work led to a rethinking of the science-policy interface and development of the Functions of Scientific Information (FOSI) model which has since been used to guide scientific research and policy engagement, to evaluate the impact of philanthropic investments, to build partnerships, to strategically position policy initiatives, and to identify gaps in research. The article introducing the model, in Public Administration Review, Meeting the Challenges of Policy‚ÄźRelevant Science: Bridging Theory and Practice, won the Marshall Dimock award for best article of the year and Louis Brownlow award for best article by a practitioner, the only dual award of its kind in journal history. Professor Graffy was elected Chair of the Section on Women in Public Administration, the largest membership section in the American Association of Public Administration, and continues to advise and consult on public sector projects.


  • PhD, Environment and Resources/Public Policy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2005
  • MS, Agricultural Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1993
  • AB, Politics (Comparative, International; cum laude), Princeton University, 1984


Journal Articles


Kihm, S., P. Cappers, A. Satchwell and E. Graffy. 2018. Corporate finance and sustainability: The case of the electric utility industry. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance 30(1):106-111. DOI: 10.1111/jacf.12283. (link )


Miller, C. A., J. O'Leary, E. Graffy, E. B. Stechel and G. Dirks. 2015. Narrative futures and the governance of energy transitions. Futures 70(June):65-74. DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2014.12.001. (link )


Graffy, E. and S. Kihm. 2014. Does disruptive competition mean a death spiral for electric utilities?. Energy Law Journal 35(1):1-44. (link )

Haines, S. S., J. E. Diffendorfer, L. Balistrieri, B. Berger, T. Cook, D. DeAngelis, H. Doremus, D. L. Gautier, T. Gallegos, M. Gerritsen, E. Graffy, S. Hawkins, K. M. Johnson, J. Macknick, P. McMahon, T. Modde, B. Pierce, J. H. Schuenemeyer, D. Semmens, B. Simon, J. Taylor and K. Walton-Day. 2014. A framework for quantitative assessment of impacts related to energy and mineral resource development. Natural Resources Research 23(1):3-17. DOI: 10.1007/s11053-013-9208-6. (link )


Graffy, E. 2012. Agarian ideals, sustainability ethics, and US policy: A critique for practitioners. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 25(4):503-528. DOI: 10.1007/s10806-011-9338-y. (link )


Graffy, E. 2008. Meeting the challenges of policy-relevant science: Bridging theory and practice. Public Administration Review 68(6):1087-1100(14). DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2008.00957.x. (link )

Graffy, E. and N. L. Booth. 2008. Linking environmental risk assessment and communication: An experiment in co-evolving scientific and social knowledge. International Journal of Global Environmental Issues 8(1/2):132-146. DOI: 10.1504/IJGENVI.2008.017264. (link )


Graffy, E. 2006. Expert forecasts and the emergence of water scarcity on public agendas. Society & Natural Resources: An International Journal 19(5):465-372. DOI: 10.1080/08941920600561173. (link )

Book Chapters


Graffy, E. 2013. Left High and dry? Climate change, common-pool resource theory, and the adaptability of western water compacts. In: Durant, R. and J. R. Durant eds., Debating Public Administration: Management Challenges, Choices, and Opportunities. Taylor and Francis. ISBN: 978-1466502369.



Graffy, E., D. Krantz, J. O'Leary and M. West. 2019. Sustainable energy, education and knowledge-sharing (SEEK): Catalyzing energy transitions with social values. Poster presented at the Second International Conference on Energy Research and Social Science, May 2019, Tempe, AZ.

Report Chapters


Graffy, E. 2012. Chapter 14: Civic engagement in science and technology. Pp. 141-148 In: Campbell Rawlings, K. ed., 100th Arizona Town Hall Report: Civic Engagemetn. Arizona State University. Tempe, AZ. (link )